Young talent led the pack for the Harvard cross country team at this year’s Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. The event, held this past Friday at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City, saw two Crimson runners secure top-25 finishes.
On the men’s team, freshman Hugo Milner followed up his top performance at the Princeton Invitational with an 11th place overall finish out of 88 Ivy League runners. He completed the five mile course in 25:20.30.
On the women’s side, fellow freshman Abbe Goldstein competed in the women’s 6K race and secured 23rd place out of 90 runners with a time of 21:52.30. Goldstein’s finish was a squad best for the women.
Van Cortlandt Park’s course posed unique challenges for the Crimson.
“As a team, the biggest challenge was trying to get out in the front,” Milner said. “[The race] started on a big wide field and then suddenly it went straight into a path that was only about 2 meters wide. From the start, we were told to try to get to the front before we hit the path.”
Feeling the effects of being such a young team, both Harvard cross country teams placed eighth overall.
“We have a lot of freshman on the team compared to a lot of the other teams, which have juniors and seniors competing as well,” Milner said.
With 189 points, the Crimson men placed eighth overall in the men’s five mile, behind seventh-place Brown which finished with 164 points. Last year at the Heps Championships, the Harvard men’s team also finished in eighth.
Freshman Milner earned second time All-Ivy and finished first amongst all freshmen male runners at the meet. Milner started the race at the front, dropped back mid-race to about 20th place, and then made a comeback near the end to nab 11th place. Even despite his team-leading finish, the freshman still recognizes the room for improvement.
“I was satisfied with 11th, but I know I could have done slightly better than that,” Milner said. “The people in front of me were only marginally in front of me….The way I’ve been training, I feel like I could have beaten them.”
Other notable men’s performances came from junior Collin Price, who finished in 38th place with a time of 26:02.30, and from freshman Michael Alber, who claimed 48th position after crossing the line at 26:17.70.
“I think we were a bit unlucky on the day,” Milner said. “A few people got injured and a few underperformed a little bit.”
While the men’s team took eighth for the second year in a row, the story for the women was the opposite. Last year, with four runners finishing top 10 out of 92 total female runners, the Crimson women won the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship. This year, the team reversed course, struggling to make it to the front of the pack, and ultimately finishing eighth overall.
“We’ve had a lot of transitions that have complicated the sport,” captain Elianna Shwayder said. “Last year was pretty simple for our group. We went out and took care of business. We ran hard.”
For the first two kilometers, Shwayder and Goldstein were on track to finish in the top 10 of the pack. However, Shwayder lost a shoe and had to finish the race with only one spike. This, in addition to the difficult middle part of the race, pushed the members of the women’s team toward the back of the group.
“Everyone encountered different challenges throughout the race,” Shwayder said. “Overall, we really struggled to be competitive in the part of the race that really mattered—the middle three kilometers in the hills…. We’re all really intense competitors but we didn’t bring that out on the hills where we needed to dig deep.”
For the rest of the squad, junior Kathryn Gillespie finished 38th in 22:18.10, sophomore Gillian Meeks finished 53rd in 22:32.50, and in 78th place Shwayder finished the race with one shoe and a time of 23:08.50.
“Overall no one came away from the race happy,” Shwayder said. “It was a really tough day for everyone. We are much better athletes than how we competed as an overall group.”